Friday, January 11, 2013

Day 11: Tourism for your Favorite TV Show or Movie

Have you ever traveled to visit the set of your favorite TV show or movie? Well, that is what I am talking about today.

This isn't a new phenomenon but only recently has it gained steam as a solid tourism practice. I'm not talking about riding a bus through a back lot at MGM, hoping to catch a glimpse of disused props, or walking through "Hogmeade" at Universal Studio Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

What I mean is visiting actual real-world location sites for films or shows. Fans of popular books, TV shows, and movies (and particularly books that have become movies or TV shows) are ready to pay to see the sights from their favorite chapter or scene.

For example, the recent Hunger Games film was shot partially on-location in the woods of North Carolina. There's currently a tour company offering visits to the State Park where the shooting for the District 12 scenes and some of the Arena scenes took place; while there, they throw in some archery and painting lessons (the two main characters Katniss and Peeta's specialties).

In New Zealand, there are tour companies that offer sightseeing tours to the various remote locations on the Southern Island where outdoor filming took place; or, if small and slow-paced is more your thing, you can join a tour of Hobbiton, Bilbo and Frodo's hometown. It was specially built for the film, but has been left in place (good thing since The Hobbit returned here to film) and there's even an actual pub now in the pub building from the movie. I'm excited to do one of these tours when I go to New Zealand later this year!! (Expect a blog post about THAT, for sure!)

And of course there are tours for people who LOVE Harry Potter. You can visit location sets around London and Oxford, such as Diagon Alley, and parts of Oxford University used to film Hogwarts scenes, or you can do a tour of the studio in London where the huge Great Hall was built in its entirety (and still remains).

As for me, I've done some travel and sightseeing for two of my favorite TV shows: Doctor Who (and it's spin-off Torchwood) and The Walking Dead.

First, in 2010, I backpacked around the UK for a couple weeks solo. I visited Scotland, England and Wales. In Wales, I went to Cardiff, which serves as the backdrop and shooting location for many Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes. I specifically decided to go to Cardiff because of Doctor Who.

Here on the plaza in front of the Millennium Centre, the big silver thing (it's normally a fountain/waterfall type thing, but it had these big strawberries on it the day I went and the water wasn't running) serves as the entrance to Torchwood 3, and multiple episodes, particularly in the first season of Torchwood, were filmed here. You can also see in it the first season episode of Doctor Who, Boom Town. This is where the rift in space and time occurs.

To the left of the Millennium Centre is Roald Dahl Plass, and this place is easily recognizable in two Doctor Who episodes, Boom Town (series 1) and Last of the Time Lords (series 3). It also features in Torchwood heavily, since it's just outside their hidden headquarters.

More pictures of the Plass and Millennium Centre, along with episodes filmed there, can be found here. 

In Cardiff, not far from the Millennium Centre, you can also find the Doctor Who Experience, which houses various props (particularly of all the baddies the Doctor's faced, like Daleks and Cybermen, but also companion's outfits and a TARDIS) and a shop of memorabilia. It's a bit cheesy, but still fun for big fans like me. I'm not aware of any official tours you can take of the sets, but if you know some, let me know!

I didn't see any filming while I was in Cardiff, unfortunately, but it was still cool to walk in the footsteps of the Doctor.

The second show I traveled for was The Walking Dead. OK, I say traveled... it was about an hour's drive from where I live back in the US. You see, they film the show mostly in rural West Georgia. As I'm from rural East Alabama, it's not much of a stretch to go there. However, I did meet some girls who had driven up 8 hours from Florida to come watch the filming! Now that's dedication!

The hardest part is finding out when and where they will actually be filming. Walking Dead Locations is a godsend for that. They get tips from locals about the filming and post it on their site. All you have to do then is google maps your way to whatever out-of-the-way small town or back road they've set up shop in, and you're in business!

When I was there, I even managed to meet two of the actors, Chandler Riggs (who plays Carl, see left) and Laurie Holden (who plays Andrea), although I just missed Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl, my favorite character) by minutes, which made me sad.

(BTW, yes, I'm wearing a "Keep Calm and Kill Zombies" shirt; don't judge me.)

 I went two separate times over a week's period, to two different locations. If you watch the show, you'll recognize one place I visited was "Woodbury", which is an actual small town called Senoia. Senoia is such an idyllic small Southern town that multiple TV shows and films have shot here! Another was a rural set in a different small town called Grantville, the episode for which hasn't aired yet (I was told it is episode 11 which should be the third episode aired when the show returns in February).

Set from upcoming Episode 11

The tire gate at the "Woodbury" set, recently seen in the mid-season finale

There's also a tour company out of Atlanta that does tours to the Walking Dead sets in Atlanta and nearby rural Georgia. They also showcase other popular TV shows and movies that currently film or previously filmed in the area, such as Driving Miss Daisy, The Vampire Diaries, Zombieland, and The Blind Side.

So, there you have it! Have you ever traveled to visit a set of a favorite film or TV series? If you haven't, would you? Would you prefer take a tour or find your own way? Let me know in the comments!

xx Kaylin

(Picture credits:; 2-; all other photos belong to me)

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